New Delhi: BJP president Amit Shah will be the Home Minister in the newly constituted Cabinet under PM Narendra Modi. He is taking over from Rajnath Singh, who has been given the Defence Ministry.
Emerging from the backstage, from where he directed the BJP’s ascent to its zenith, Shah will now remain at the forefront of Narendra Modi's second government.
Shah, who has been Modi's most trusted lieutenant since the 1980s when both started their political careers in Gujarat, made a grand entry in the prime minister’s group of ministers.
While there was immense speculation about Shah being given a cabinet berth, one could argue that a series of recent events had pointed to such a possibility.
The first was Shah contesting the Lok Sabha elections. Leaving his Rajya Sabha seat and getting into direct representation in the Lok Sabha was perhaps the first clear sign that Shah was getting into the active and administrative side of politics. The presence in Lok Sabha of an MP of his calibre, who won from the BJP's traditional Gandhinagar seat in Gujarat, indicated possible changes in the BJP.
The second clear signal was the symbolism of Modi and Shah being together since the party's victory celebrations. After the election results were announced on May 23, the Modi-Shah duo had walked together to the BJP headquarters to greet and address party workers. The current No. 1 and No. 2 in the BJP had also travelled together to their respective constituencies of Varanasi and Gandhinagar. Apart from being a move to thank their voters, their travel together was seen as deliberations to delineate the broad contours of the Union Cabinet.
The third clear sign is actually a lesson in history. When Shah laid the ground for Modi's return as Gujarat chief minister in 2002, he was rewarded with 10 portfolios, including home, law and justice, prison, border security and housing. A repeat performance on a national level, given the comfortable position to which Shah guided his party, was arguably going to fetch him a reward in the form of a cabinet berth.
Besides, Modi's trust in Shah is indisputable. At the BJP national executive following the party’s massive victory in 2014, Modi had said, “Amit Shah was the man of the match. Had Shah not been given the responsibility of Uttar Pradesh, the country would not have known about his immense skills. I have personally known Shah for a long time. He will perform to his potential in his new responsibility and I have no doubt about that.”
The general secretary in charge of Uttar Pradesh, who delivered a stunning mandate in the form of 73 of the 80 seats in the state, was subsequently awarded and made the BJP's top boss.
Modi once again extolled Shah during a grand function at the party headquarters in Delhi when the BJP repeated its earlier performance, winning 311 of the 403 seats in the Uttar Pradesh Assembly polls.
“When the BJP saw a resounding victory in the Assembly election in Uttar Pradesh this year, it stunned the entire nation,” Modi had said. “I had said at that time that Amit Shah was the ‘man of the match’ of this election."
And Modi praised the BJP president again in his victory speech on May 23 after Shah orchestrated the party’s historic win in the Lok Sabha polls.
But what does Shah's ministerial position mean for the BJP's larger politics? Is Modi grooming Shah for administration?
“Amit Shah's transition is complete. He is now the legitimised inheritor of Modi's legacy,” political analyst Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay has claimed.
By the time the tenure of Modi 2.0 comes to an end in 2024, Modi will be 73 years old. Given the rule he has set for the party — of encouraging those above 75 years of age to retire from active politics — it will be time for the BJP, in case it wins a third straight term in Lok Sabha, to appoint its successor. Will today's cabinet minister be tomorrow's prime minister? It is a line of thought worth pursuing.
Interestingly, Shah was third in the pecking order of taking oath. After Modi and Rajnath Singh, but ahead of former party chief Nitin Gadkari.